Italian wines are made to go with food. They have high acidity, which causes our mouths to salivate, cleansing the palate and preparing us for the next bite. So, enjoying Italian wines with food is a real treat for the taste buds. And, of course, the best food pairings for Italian wines are Italian foods.
What to drink with tomato-based pasta
Many pasta dishes contain tomato sauce, which is quite acidic. This makes it difficult to pair with wines, especially red wines. But don't worry -- there are Italian reds that can match the acidity in tomato sauce and elevate a simple Italian dinner to a new level. Think of Barbera, a red wine made from the grape of the same name grown in Piedmont in northwestern Italy. Barbera has high acidity and is one of the few Italian wines that can match the acidity in tomato sauce, complementing the Italian food without being overwhelmed. There are several different styles of Barbera and many different producers.
Next time you're enjoying pasta with tomato sauce or pizza with tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella, choose a Barbera that has moderate alcohol (12-13 percent or so) and has not been aged in oak. Oak aging softens the acidity of Barbera and makes it less likely to pair well with tomato sauce. But oak-aged Barbera is perfect for meat sauce and meat dishes or on its own. Its soft and velvety texture makes it approachable and appealing for many palates.
Fresh tomatoes and Italian wine
From Caprese salad with fresh mozzarella to bruschetta, tomatoes are the mainstay of many Italian appetizers. But tomatoes, like tomato sauce, have high acidity. They are also quite light, which makes white wines a better pairing for dishes with fresh tomatoes. So, when choosing a wine for a dish that contains fresh tomatoes, go for an Italian white with higher acidity.
The best Italian whites also have tons of flavor and character. The region of Campania in the South makes whites that pair well with fresh tomatoes and other foods commonly served as appetizers: olives, fresh mozzarella or seafood. The best is Greco di Tufo, an Italian white wine made from the greco grape. Greco di Tufo is full of flavor and character, but also has enough acidity to match dishes with fresh tomatoes. Its minerality and the medium body make it a perfect match for mozzarella and pasta with seafood, from shrimp and scampi to clams and squid. After all, this white comes from the same area as some of the best Italian tomatoes, the best mozzarella and the wonderful seafood of the coast.
So next time you are cooking pasta or making fresh tomato salad, put the Chianti aside and save it for a meal that includes some red meat. Reach for Barbera and Greco di Tufo instead, and you're guaranteed a great dining experience.